Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is being singled out for his role as leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, which supplies the bulk of narcotics sold in the city, according to the Chicago Crime Commission and the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
“Not since the Chicago Crime Commission’s first public enemy No 1 has any criminal deserved this title more than Joaquin Guzman,” said JR Davis, president of the Chicago Crime Commission.
It was the Chicago Crime Commission that designated Capone public enemy No 1 in 1930. The non-government body that tracks city crime trends called other people public enemies, but Capone was the only one to ever be its No 1.
Despite his nickname — “El Chapo” means “shorty” in Spanish — Guzman is one of the world’s most dangerous and most wanted outlaws. He’s also one of the richest: Forbes magazine has estimated the value of his fortune at around $1bn (€750m).
Unlike Capone, Guzman doesn’t live in Chicago. He lives in a mountain hideaway in western Mexico. But for all the havoc he creates in the US’s third-largest city, he ought to be treated as a local Chicago crime boss, said the DEA’s top Chicago official, Jack Riley.
“In my opinion, Guzman is the new Al Capone of Chicago,” Mr Riley says.
Capone based his bootlegging and other criminal enterprises out of Chicago during Prohibition, when it was illegal to make or sell alcohol in the US. He eventually went to prison for income tax evasion, but he gained the most notoriety for the St Valentine’s Day Massacre that left seven rivals dead.
Yet Mr Riley says Guzman is more ruthless than Capone.
“If I was to put those two guys in a ring, El Chapo would eat that guy (Capone) alive,” he said while pointing to pictures of the men in his office.
Sinaloa and other Mexican cartels shipping drugs to Chicago are rarely directly linked to killings in the city, but Mr Riley said cartel-led drug trafficking is an underlying cause of territorial battles between street gangs that are blamed for rising homicide rates.
Guzman has been indicted on federal trafficking charges in Chicago and, if he is ever captured alive, US officials want him extradited to face trial.